Thonton Kabeya | solo exhibition

THONTON KABEYA, solo show |”Rue Moziki” | 25 Oct to 25 Dec 2020


Thonton Kabeya is a dynamic, yet focused artist from the Congo, celebrated for his spirited enquiry into the culture of his country or even continent and enduring potential of his unique technique and medium. For this body of work he focuses on the human form set in intriguing, colourful, mostly urban environments.

Kabeya explores the limits of canvas works by sculpting and layering the material – he blurs the borders between two dimensional, relief and sculpture. The paintings, mostly small scale, condense Thonton’s signature approach to material and process.

“Rue Moziki” reflects on the ancient Congolese tradition of ‘Moziki’, also known as ‘mutuelle’ in French, that refers to a group of people gathering to help each other. Moziki groups usually agree on a specific amount of money that every member can contribute during the month. The money is then saved and given to any group member that has an upcoming event such as a birthday, wedding, funeral, or the birth of a baby.

This “motif” adds another facet to Thonton Kabeya’s ongoing enquiry:

“How would African classic art have developed organically, if there was no interference or influence of colonialism and Western society” I’m not making these things according to Western rules but I’m referring to the truth that was hidden from understanding ourselves for hundred years.

artwork in virtual space
artwork in virtual space

Your sculpted canvas works seem to be a link to traditional African masks, catapulted to the 21st century?

Yes, I revisit my ancestors ways of making art, but use new materials or mediums and reinvent a new way of craft that is authentic, yet still reflects where I come from.

How long do you work on a piece on average? – It depends on what I’m working on – if it’s a commission it may take 2 weeks to one month to finish, when I work freely it takes 5 months or more, because I usually work on a series, I rarely work on one piece at a time.

Inner City Blues 4
Inner City Blues 4
artwork in virtual space
artwork in virtual space

Thonton Kabeya was born in 1983, in the D.R.C. He presently lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He is a graduate from the Institute of Fine Arts of Lubumbashi. In 2006 he won two awards: the UNAIDS AWARD and the BELGIUM COUNCIL AWARD. He is part of many collections around the world such as the Contemporary Art Museum of Vitoria (ARTIUM) in Spain,  Unisa Art Collection (South Africa).  George Forest in D.R.C.  Erick Vellard in Paris (France).

Your work revolves a lot around childhood, is it a way to deal with your own memories of a Congo gone and lost?

artwork in virtual space
artwork in virtual space

I’m very comfortable when it comes to children as a subject in my work, Congo has something to do with my childhood memories often sad, but also fun and happy.

Your colour palette seems very selective and defined?

In these works I want to express joy and happiness, light & fun, simplicity and openness… in a way for me to define those memories of good times, I had to create a palette of colors that reflect life in a positive way.


2020 | “New Horizons”, Artnet, virtual, LITTY contemporary
2020 | Latitudes Art Fair, South Africa, Virtual, LITTY contemporary
2019 | “Secret Garden”, ODA fine art, Franschhoek, South Africa
2019 | Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa
2019 | Madrid Art Fair, Spain
2019 | Cape Town Art Fair, South Africa
2018 | FNB, Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa
2018 | solo show, “Memories Of Innocence”, ODA, fine art, South Africa
2018 | Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa
2017 | Gallery 2, Johannesburg , South Africa
2017 | ODA, Fine Art, Franschhoek, South Africa
2017 | Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa
2017 | Artium Museum of Contemporary Art, Vitoria, Spain
2016 | ODA, Fine Art, Franschhoek, South Africa
2015 | Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa
2015 | S Art Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2014 | Lizamore and Associates Gallery, Johannesburg, SA
2014 | Bag Factory, artist residence, Johannesburg. South Africa
2013 | Institut Francois of Lubumbashi, D.R.C
2012 | International Art Fair of Casablanca, Morocco
2010 | The Contemporary Art Museum of Vitoria (Artium), Spain
2009 | Gallery Kalao Arte, Bilbao, Spain
2009 | Cite Internationale Universitaire de Paris, France
2009 | Afrique en Creation, Festival, Aachen, Germany
2008 | Dak’art 2008 (Biennale), Senegal
2008 | Gallery Leopold Sedar Senghor, Dakar, Senegal
2007 | MAMAC Museum of Liege, Belgium